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California cops on leave after pepper-spraying row

world Updated: Nov 21, 2011 09:09 IST

IANS
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After a video of two police officers pepper-spraying non-violent protesters at point-blank range sparked nationwide outrage, the University of California at Davis has placed them on administrative leave.

Friday's incident has led to calls for the resignation of University Chancellor Linda Katehi, who announced the action in a written statement on Sunday saying she shares the "outrage" of students and was "deeply saddened" by the use of the chemical irritant by campus police.

A group of about a dozen protesters sat on a path with their arms interlocked as police moved in to clear out a protest encampment affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement Friday, CNN reported.

Most of the protesters had their heads down as a campus police officer walked down the line, spraying them in their faces in a sweeping motion.

"I was shocked," Sophia Kamran, one of the protesters subjected to the spray, was quoted as saying Saturday. "When students are sitting on the ground and no way of moving to be violent, being totally peaceful, I don't understand the use of pepper spray against them."

The school said ten protesters arrested were given misdemeanour citations for unlawful assembly and failure to disperse. Eleven were treated for the effects of pepper spray, which burns the eyes and nose, causing coughing, gagging and shortness of breath.

Earlier, UC Davis spokeswoman Claudia Morain said police used pepper spray after protesters encircled them and blocked them from leaving. Cut off from backup, the officers determined the situation was not safe and asked people several times to make room, Morain said.

Morain told CNN that 25 tents were in place Friday afternoon despite fliers explaining the campus prohibits overnight camping.